Intelligence

Senate confirms Esper to be Defense secretary
The vote ends an eight-month period during which the massive bureaucracy was led by a series of acting leaders

Chiarman Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., left, shakes hands with Secretary of Defense nominee Mark Esper before the start of Esper’s confirmation hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee on July 16, 2019. He was confirmed by the Senate Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Mark Esper to be the next Defense secretary, 90-8, bringing to an end an eight-month period during which the massive bureaucracy was led by a series of acting leaders.

Esper, who has served as Army secretary since 2017, follows James Mattis as President Donald Trump’s second Senate-confirmed Defense secretary.

Mobile technology may serve underbanked with no cryptocurrency
As Facebook touts a new cryptocurrency, mobile technology companies may provide the same path with dollars

The T-Mobile logo is displayed outside of a T-Mobile store. Facebook’s new cryptocurrency, Libra, could provide banking services to underbanked populations. But some say mobile technology companies may be able to provide those services with government-backed currencies. T-Mobile teamed up with BankMobile, a division of Customer Bank, earlier this year to allow people to bank on their phones through a service called T-Mobile Money. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

As Facebook touts a new cryptocurrency as a way to serve people who are underbanked, mobile technology companies may provide the same path to financial services using good old-fashioned dollars.

The technology would avoid many risks worrying lawmakers and regulators, such as money laundering and undermining the Federal Reserve’s ability to set monetary policy. But some who track these technologies say allowing tech companies to become the bankers for the underserved carries risks of its own.

What counts as ‘foundational’ tech?
As Commerce gears up for export debate, definitions remain in dispute

An attendee participates in a augmented reality demonstration to show how lidar, or light detection and ranging, works during a briefing on autonomous vehicles in June. (Alex Wong/Getty Images file photo)

In the coming weeks, the Commerce Department plans to announce a notice seeking comments on how it should draw up export control rules for so-called foundational technologies, similar to an effort the agency launched in November 2018 for a category called “emerging” technologies.

The rules were mandated after Congress passed the 2019 defense authorization act calling on the Commerce Department to establish export controls on “emerging and foundational technologies” that are critical to U.S. national security. But tech companies, universities, and research labs across the country continue to be alarmed that overly broad export restrictions could ultimately hurt American technological superiority.

4 things to watch when Mueller testifies
Former special counsel is unlikely to disclose any new information Wednesday

Former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III will face the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rarely does a congressional hearing have a longer, more dramatic buildup than former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s appearances Wednesday before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees — and the American public via television cameras.

The main question: Will his testimony change anything?

Trump says ‘thousands’ of companies are leaving China. It’s not that simple
President routinely exaggerates situation, which also has roots in rising wages for Chinese workers

President Donald Trump listens to adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner speak during a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. (John T. Bennett/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump repeatedly asserts that “thousands” of companies are scurrying to flee China because of his tariffs. But Asia and trade experts say he is exaggerating data for political gain.

As the president tells it, U.S. and other firms have either moved or will move their production operations and supply chains off Chinese soil because he has slapped $250 billion worth of import duties on Chinese products. As recently as last Tuesday, Trump threatened further tariffs of $325 billion on goods from the Asian superpower. Experts, however, say the situation is not that black and white.

Road ahead: All eyes on the budget and debt limit deal, except when Mueller testifies
House to tackle border issues, while Senate will confirm Defense secretary, clear 9/11 compensation bill

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wants to clear the debt deal this week before the chamber departs for the August recess. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

All eyes this week will be on whether House lawmakers are able to pass a deal to raise the debt limit and set spending levels for the next two years before leaving for the August recess on Friday.

That is except, of course, when former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III seizes all the attention when he testifies before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees.

Clete Willems is trading in the White House for K Street
“My biggest joke now is I went to become a partner in a law firm, so I can work less”

Clete Willems has gone from chauffeuring Rep. Paul D. Ryan to working on trade policy at the White House to partnering at the Akin Gump law firm on K Street. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The timing of Clete Willems’ recent departure from the White House seemed a bit inopportune what with negotiations over trade disputes with China hitting a pivotal point. But the international economics adviser to the president says he had other commitments to keep.

Though the Trump White House has a reputation for unpredictability and plenty of staffing drama, Willems says the reason for his departure was more personal. When he took on the new gig at the beginning of the Trump administration, he made a pact with his wife: When they had a second child, he would head for the exit. His daughter was born in March.

Secret Service pressed for plan to avoid future Mar-a-Lago security breaches
A 33-year-old Chinese woman was arrested with malware, other suspicious items

President Donald Trump walks to speak with supporters after arriving on Air Force One at the Palm Beach International Airport to spend Easter weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort on April 18, 2019. ( Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Three senior Senate Democrats are pressing the U.S. Secret Service on whether security has been beefed up at President Donald Trump’s Florida and New Jersey resorts after a 33-year-old Chinese woman talked her way into his Mar-a-Lago property while he was there.

Yujing Zhang, 33, pleaded not guilty on charges of trespassing and lying to U.S. Secret Service agents after being arrested March 30 at the president’s Florida resort. When searched, she was found carrying a pair of passports, four mobile devices, a laptop computer, a thumb drive allegedly containing malware and one external hard drive.

Democrats appear stymied on a top priority: climate legislation
Outside of passing Paris accord bill, new House majority has little to show

Democrats, led by Sen. Edward J. Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, center, introduce the Green New Deal in February. The resolution still hasn’t received a committee vote and hasn’t resulted in legislation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

It’s been more than six months since Democrats assumed control of the House promising to take bold action on climate change. And what do they have to show for it?

Just one major bill directly addressing the issue has passed on the floor, a measure that would force the U.S. to honor its commitments in the Paris climate accord. A comprehensive climate change package has yet to emerge, and a bill reintroduced by the chairman of the main committee of jurisdiction over Clean Air Act issues hasn’t had a committee vote.

House blocks Al Green articles of impeachment of Trump

Texas Rep. Al Green’s impeachment resolution got the support of 95 Democrats in the House on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Democratic leaders avoided a direct vote on Rep. Al Green’s articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump with Republicans’ help, as Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy moved Wednesday to table the Texas Democrat’s resolution.

The motion was agreed to, 332-95, with Oregon Democrat Peter A. DeFazio voting “present.”